Atlas Reactor Just Went F2P, But What Must It Do Better to Keep Our Attention?

A closer look at Atlas Reactor's new business model and some speculation on how Trion Worlds can maintain their community.

Trion Worlds made a big decision with Season 2 of their turn-based strategy game Atlas Reactor. As of just a few days ago, it appears all of the game's features are free to play. In addition, a new freelancer and play mode were introduced. 

Atlas Reactor is a turn-based, player versus player, team tactics game. Each round is timed, so the player's decisions are fast paced, even with pretty in depth tactical options. If when you saw the T-Rex chasing the Jeep scene in Jurassic Park, you thought, "I think I would like to play a game of chess in the back of that Jeep." -- this might be the game for you.   

In any case, it's now Free to Play so there's no reason not to check it out. They've implemented a new in-game currency (Flux) -- which is acquired by completing objectives and PvPing -- and then spent on the players' load-out and freelancer selection. It appears everything has a Flux price, making it truly possible to unlock all of the game without spending a dime. 

The community seems to be pleased with the new system. Veteran players that originally bought Atlas Reactor were given fat stacks of loot to compensate for the new development. A surge of new players have evened out the PvP queues and boosted the game's Steam reviews. 

Overall, this seems to be a smart move by Trion Worlds. The game is very high quality for a free to play title (no comment on paying for it). The battle system is intriguing, strategic and different. The new progression system makes sense, even if it suffers from a couple bumps currently. The studio has shuffled this title's business model around several times, and whether the current version is really that much different than its previous states, its gotten a positive PR push that has infused the player base.  

But how does Trion Worlds keep our attention?

The addition of the new Freelancer, Brynn, also came with an announcement that another would be introduced in 10 weeks. Several new game modes will also be added and patches appear to be quite frequent. 

It doesn't seem players will leave for lack of new content, and the interesting and in-depth combat is certainly a reason to stay. There is a constant micro transaction pressure, but what free to play game doesn't have that?

Instead, I think Atlas Reactor flounders when it comes to story and progression. Sure, it's possible to read through all of your freelancer's bios and piece together a bit of a story but to keep your average player invested it's going to take a lot more than that.

Take a lesson from your big sister Overwatch, a little story is crucial even to lobbied combat games, especially when the main draw are its characters. There's no need to drop the entire budget on big CGI cinematics, just an effort -- even text-based -- to involve the player in Atlas Reactor's characters and environments. Give me some immersion, please. 

Using Flux as a blanket progression device is a boring solution. Characters do gain experience and unlock features, but again, there's nothing terribly engaging with this system. A little more effort in progression design would go a long way in keeping players committed to just unlocking one more thing for their favorite Freelancer.

Only time will tell if this push will have a lasting effect on our new F2P Atlas Reactor. Trion Worlds has a rough reputation with how they handle Free to Play titles, including questionable moves concerning Archeage's cash shop that ended up crippling their MMORPG's economy. Hopefully, they've learned from their mistakes and will keep a healthy F2P title for its fans. 

Do you think this was a step in the right direction for Atlas Reactor? Do you think the community will stay lively? Or die out after the hype has passed?

 

Published Jan. 26th 2017

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